Oct 31, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Today marks the final full week of the elections countdown in the United States. On Tuesday, Americans will go to the polls (indeed many have already, taking advantage of opportunity of early voting measures), deciding what will likely be the most consequential American election ever.
Set by law as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, the date has a symbolism rooted as it were in economic/meteorological practicality. The date falls within the final days of autumn or the fall season, set for when the last of the crops have been harvested but before the icy winds of winter extend over most of the massive land space that constitutes the United States. And winter is a symbol for death.
The St. Lucian poet, Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, a sort of subaltern voyager in the American south at the time, would, in 1965, write a poem, ‘The Gulf’ in which he warns of an “air charged with the extremities”, a socio-political situation set to explode due to racial hostilities. This was of course the year of the Selma to Montgomery marches, two years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and three years before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Walcott’s analysis of the pending crisis was simple:
“ fear/thickened my voice, that strange, familiar soil
prickled and barbed the texture of my hair,
my status as a secondary soul.
The Gulf, your gulf, is daily widening,
each blood-red rose warns of that coming night”
What came after – the nebulous interregnum of the 1970s, 80s and 90s – was crowned by the questionable (some have argued ‘compromised’) zenith of the Obama Presidency, when the effete term, “post-racial America” was floated up until the infamous ‘Birther Conspiracy’ – that Obama was not in fact born in America and hence ineligible to be president – caught aflame and in 2016, America elected the chief arsonist of that scandalous bonfire to the Oval Office.
And from there, the descent began. Four years later, (fifty-five after Walcott’s poem), the gulf in America has widened to arguably the widest point possible short of outright civil war.
According to an article in yesterday’s issue of The New York Times, high-end stores like Nordstrom and Tiffany are boarding up in expectation of violent unrest, whatever the outcome of the election. Reads the piece, entitled ‘Boarded-Up Windows and Increased Security; Retailers Brace for the Election’:
“The nation is on edge as the bitter presidential contest nears an end, the latest flashpoint in a bruising year that has included the pandemic and widespread protests over social justice. Anxiety has been mounting for months that the election’s outcome could lead to civil unrest, no matter who wins. In the retail industry, many companies are not simply concerned about possible mayhem – they are planning for it.”
This sort of hyper-caution by retailers in expectation of post-electoral violence is something Guyanese would be very familiar with – this is something that took place in Georgetown’s central business district earlier this year in the aftermath of our own historically contentious elections, the eventual peaceful resolution of which the American government played no small part in. It is therefore ironic that the most powerful democracy in the world appears to be on an irrecoverable descent into anarchy or despotism with Donald Trump threatening to do essentially as David Granger did, which is to hold on to power after losing an election outright, a loss he seems set to receive consider that he is significantly trailing Democratic contender Joe Biden in the polls at this eleventh hour.
America today is in freefall, weighed down by the gravitational pull of decades of unresolved racial, economic and social baggage, even if Trump loses – indeed, the argument can be made that this would continue especially if he loses. What we may very well be seeing is the effective end of America, as both Great Society and Great Empire, the shining city on a hill becoming the cautionary tale of the Age.
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